What is Mechanical Engineering?

UC associate professor explains how engineering degree can be key to success in any field

University of Cincinnati associate professor Fu-Lin Tsung explains how similar aerospace and mechanical engineering are and the possibilities you have with an engineering degree. Before joining UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, Tsung started his career at NASA as a researcher, continued his engineering path to industry at General Electric (GE) Aviation, and now a mechanical engineering professor.

How would you describe mechanical engineering?

Tsung: Just about everything we touch has some components of mechanical engineering in it. You wake up, you get into the car, you good to go to school, when you go see your grandparents in an airplane. Airplane jet engines have to operate at very high temperature and we need to make sure the material doesn't fail at two or three thousand degrees —that's mechanical engineering.

Why is mechanical engineering important for all fields?

Tsung: One great thing about mechanical engineering is it is so fundamental. The the laws you learn, Newton's Law, thermodynamics is applicable to every field. Everything from wind turbines to Hollywood motion picture — somebody has to build those robots and sets to make the magic in Hollywood happen.

Everything from wind turbines to Hollywood motion picture — somebody has to build those robots and sets to make the magic in Hollywood happen.

Fu-Lin Tsung, UC College of Engineering and Applied Science

What is it like coming from an aerospace background to teaching mechanical engineering?

Tsung: The reality is most engineering are closely related. Aerospace and mechanical are closely related. You cannot say “Oh I want to be an electrical engineer” and you don't learn about mechanical. The electrical components are used in robotics, in airplanes, in cars — so the [major] to me is really not that significant. You're really learning how to learn. You might start with mechanical and can end up in biomedical or you might end up in programming. You really need a wide background.

How is mechanical engineering multi-disciplinary?

Tsung: Engineering is so broad there's some very basic engineering like mechanical, chemical, and electrical — those technologies you use in every field. Even if you go into chemical plant, they will need electronics to control the chemical reaction. I have many friends that went into the medical field with engineering backgrounds. Somebody has to make heart pumps and artificial limbs. The doctors are not trained engineers. They know what they need, but they need an engineer to help them to execute.

Learn more about engineering

Want to know more about engineering? Take a look at the 'What is Engineering?' video series to better understand just what engineers do.